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Archive for the ‘Sorcerer RPG’ Category

How we manage combat in Sorcerer. Might work for you, too.

Take one suit from a deck of cards – so, you have 13 cards.

Once everybody rolls to determine priority of action, hand out the cards: Ace (“one”) to the highest roll, 2 to the next highest, etc. Everybody leaves their card showing face-up on the table. Now resolve actions in order, starting with the character who has the Ace card and proceeding numerically. Turn your card face-down when:

  • you take your action
  • you abort your action, e.g. to roll full defense
  • your action is obviated due to changing circumstances

When you’ve got a dozen PCs, NPCs and demons acting at once, this can really help to remember who should act when, without having to re-survey all the rolls, and especially to remember who has aborted their action. It’s not too hard for a player to remember their PC’s place in the order, but the GM is potentially tracking 5-10 characters including everyone’s demons, so this really helps them.

I originally made cards for this: orange on one side, blue on the other, with the numbers written on both sides. But I think playing cards would work just as well. If you have more than 13 actors, start a second suit.

I find this quicker than the method described in Annotated Sorcerer, drawing circles and numbered arrows on a piece of paper. The drawback is that the cards method doesn’t record who is acting against whom. I suppose the methods could be combined.

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You could do Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery as a Sorcerer tale.  Burying a body is the ritual to summon a possessor or parasite demon to re-animate it.  The pet cemetery’s cursed grounds provide a Lore bonus.  The demon has the Cover ability to mimic whatever or whoever you buried there.  But it also has a Need, and it gets nasty if you don’t provide it…

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The tale of the D.C. Beltway Sniper – a man and a teenage boy terrorize D.C. with a sniper rifle over several weeks – is a Sorcerer tale.  A teenage boy in Alabama was going through hell, and none of the adults in his life would give him the help he needed.  In his desperation, he created a demon in the form of his childhood hero: a revered uncle who had just died in Afghanistan.    A demon with a Desire to protect the boy, and a Need to kill.  The demon hunted down and shot the boy’s tormentor, but it didn’t end there.  As more bullies and less-favourite teachers turned up dead, the boy realized that he had endangered his whole town.  He tried to unsummon the demon, but it proved too strong.  That’s when it kidnapped him, stole a car, and took the killing spree on the road.

The boy struggled between his fear of discovery and his fear of the murderous fiend in the shape of his uncle.  He nudged the roadtrip towards the nation’s capital, hoping to be captured there.  Once, he mastered himself long enough to telephone for help.  It was a few more days before the authorities caught up with the pair.  They couldn’t have subdued the demon without the boy’s help.

What really happened between their arrest in 2002 and the demon’s “execution” in 2009, we’ll never know.

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The setting-and-character generation session is still a week away, so this is how I exercise my creative energy (and exorcise my obsession).

I’ve just finished re-reading the Annotated Sorcerer, the re-issue of the Sorcerer rulebook complete with the author’s extensive observations and comments on 15+ years of play (his and ours) and discussion on The Forge forums.  It’s a great resource.  I still wish Ron Edwards had updated or rewritten the rulebook, because finding the definitive version of a rule requires perusing both the original text and the nearby notations.  But the annotations taken together comprise a master class in running/playing Sorcerer, and in Forge-style play.  Valuable, fascinating reading.

Since our game’s scenario will be based on the characters’ kickers, this (re-reading the rulebooks, and finding sorcerous tales in pop culture and current events) is the only “prep” that I can do.

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This is my pitch for a new game of Sorcerer that I’m putting together.  It will be unique in a couple of ways.  First, the pitch, which was aimed at players who are totally unfamiliar with the Sorcerer RPG:

“Know this: all the traditions, cultures, rituals, and bodies of knowledge surrounding what we call magic or the occult are wrong. It is hogwash, flimflam, swindlery, and lies. But even so, here and now in the modern world, there are perhaps several dozen sorcerers in existence. They do summon demons and bind them to their will. They do have an inkling, although no surety, about the unnatural laws.

You are one of them.”  –Ron Edwards, Sorcerer (rulebook)

Sorcerer is a game that explores “what do you WANT, and how far are you willing to go to get it?” As you can imagine, summoning and bargaining with demons can be… hazardous.  There is no secret school of magic, no accepted body of sorcerous knowledge. Besides your fellow PCs, you maybe know one other sorcerer. You’re pretty much on your own in dealing with these crafty, extra-planar fuckers. You have no magic, no powers of your own, except the ability to summon, bind and banish demons. But demons can give you almost any power imaginable – for a price. Want to be invulnerable to weapons? Want to be able to fly? Want a slavering beast that’ll tear apart your enemies? No problem, as long as you can pay their price. Need more? Demons will give you all the power you want. They are the ultimate loan-sharks.

Why Sorcerer kicks ass:

  • Combat is flexible, cinematic and fast. A fight usually resolves within 5-10 minutes, and with serious consequences.
  • Players have lots of creative input. By the choices you make for your PC during character creation, YOU basically tell ME what you want to see and do in the game. And then I go and create a situation based on your characters.
  • Your creative control continues throughout the game. The GM does not plan an adventure from beginning to end; he runs the world and provides opposition, but YOU take the story wherever you want to.
  • A demon can be almost anything: a red, pointy-tailed devil, a kid’s imaginary friend, a parasite that lives in your gut, an intelligent magic item, a rogue AI, etc..
  • The system is fairly simple, I can teach it as we go. No homework will be assigned. 😉

What do you think? Want to see if you can use the ultimate users, and come out on top?

The pitch worked, the players are IN, and I can’t wait to get started.  Why this game will be unique (for me):

  • The players are traditional D&D players who are willing to try something new.  They tend to play very dramatically and collaboratively, but are unused to rules sets that support that kind of play directly.
  • I’ve run Sorcerer in Melniboné and in 1941 Casablanca, I’ve played Sorcerer in Mu, but I’ve never played or run it straight-up, by the book, in the here-and-now, as this game will be.
  • I’ve always used the relationship-map method of scenario creation.  This time, I’m just going to go with the advice in the core book.  I think this will bring maximal focus on the PCs’ kickers.

I look forward to introducing these players to Forge-style play.  They’re pretty pro-active players already, so I don’t think it’ll be much of a culture shock.  And I look forward to going in with an open mind, hearing their character concepts, awesoming-up their kickers, and then taking a week to come up with a scenario based entirely on that.

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Maybe this was an obvious one, but… yeah, bad-guys have to be prepared.

When GMing with Sorcerer’s Relationship-Map method, you (the GM) don’t decide who the main villain is; that comes out through play.  You start with lots of NPCs who each have their own motivations and plans, and who will each try to influence, recruit, help or hinder the PCs accordingly.  As the story develops, one (or more) of the NPCs will naturally end up opposing the PCs or trying to harm them.

My problem is: twice now in the current game, an NPC that had the potential to develop into the main villain has ended up dead.  In their very first interaction with the PCs.

I’ve been statting up these NPCs as if they were some-what experienced PCs, which I see now was not the right approach.  These are ambitious and dangerous people who already have a number of enemies.  They should each be walking around with the equivalent of a couple of Glocks, a kevlar vest and six body guards.  With a bullet-proof limo idling out front.

The prepared bad-guy was practically built into the dungeon-crawl model of play.  A whole maze of mooks, lieutenants and guard-dogs stood between the heroes and the villain.  In the new democratic world of R-map play, I will have to be a little smarter.  Or at least, my antagonists will have to be.

-J

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As the GM, what you need in your hands for the next session is a list of Bangs and a pile of “Assets” (NPCs, monsters, demons, locations and items).  Here’s how you get there.

1. Review Player-Characters’ actions in the previous session.  What do you think they’ll do next?

  • List any new Assets you will need to support what the players (probably) want to do.
    Just list them for now.
  • Think up some more Bangs that you can use to add pressure to their current situations and plans.
    • List any new Assets that you’ll need to support those Bangs.

2. Think about each important NPC in turn (including PCs’ demons). (more…)

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I foresee the possibility of armies clashing in our Elric campaign, so I did a little reading on The Forge as to how to handle that.  Here are the relevant threads: How would you do mass combat? Armies in Conflict .  And here’s what I gleaned:

Overview

Remember that Sorcerer is not a Simulationist system, and your goal in “playing out” mass combat should not be to simulate the battle.  The conflict between individuals and their demons (and Demons) should remain the focal point of any clash of armies.

The most dramatic way to play this out is for the principal characters to meet on the field and decide the outcome of the battle between themselves (a-la The Illiad). (more…)

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Third of three character sketches of the player-characters.

Mosun Akao of Lormyr (human)

Human, Lormyrian, late 40s. A sea trader and a secret priest of Law.

As a sea-trader, Mosun visits many Young Kingdoms, ferrying all goods via Imrryr in accordance with imperial decree. This vocation gives him the freedom of movement to search the Bright Empire for his son Tarin, who was kidnapped by slavers ten years ago (at the age of 5). The ex-priest of Law also takes the opportunity to spread the worship of Elgis of Law – secretly so, in Melnibone.

History

Mosun Akao was a Lormyrian priest of Law. His mentor, Rumon, is the high priest of Elgis in Lormyr. When his son was kidnapped, Mosun and Rumon Contacted a demon of Law for help, but it attached many pre-conditions to its aid. Mosun grew impatient with the Law demon’s demands, and secretly Contacted a demon of Chaos instead. (more…)

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